Last post on Jun 14, 2010 at 12:57 PM
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#1 of 15 Classic car as a daily driver?
Jun 10, 2010 (7:20 am)
I'm a 25 year old working professional thinking about getting a classic, or modern classic, to use as a semi-daily driver. I was recently in a pretty serious car accident and my everyday car is likely totaled (Thankfully, I walked away from it). Luckily, I live extremely close to work (10 minute walk) and within walking distance to anything I could need, so being without a car isn't a huge issue for me. Because of this, I've been tossing around the idea of getting a classic for nice days / weekends / short trips around town. Given my situation, it seems like a lot of the real downsides to owning a classic are offset, but I wanted to get some more opinions. It would likely be garaged through the winter, during which I would tough it out and walk everywhere. I would park it at a gas station across from my apartment, which is also a mechanic's shop (There's an MGB and a Ford Cortina parked there as well, so he may have experience with classics, which would be an enormous plus). In the event it didn't start one morning, leaving it there would not be an issue. I don't have any real experience wrenching on cars, aside from changing oil and spark plugs, but I'd be willing to learn. Given all this information, do you think a classic car would suit my needs, or am I nuts?
I've always been interested in British and Italian ragtops, but a Datsun 240/260z wouldn't be out of the question either. Does anyone have any experience with these cars? What are some things I should look for when inspecting a classic for purchase? What are some other options that around $10k would buy for a solid, mechanically sound daily driver? What's some other general advice for someone who knows about cars but very little about owning a classic?
#2 of 15 Re: Classic car as a daily driver? [bbassak]
Jun 10, 2010 (9:02 am)
Driving a genuine classic car with Collectors plates inhibits the driving to coming & going to "events", parades, & other related activities. Not for general use.
A potential classic usually includes one of very few made, but highly desireable.
Considering your post, perhaps a car of "Personal Interest" would be more towards your purpose. My neighbor recently purchased a used Honda S2000 for less than 20k & it is not common around here anyway.
#3 of 15 Re: Classic car as a daily driver? [euphonium]
Jun 10, 2010 (9:50 am)
Heck, I've ran my fintail on year of manufacture plates since 1996 - it was my only car for about 5 years after I got those plates. Nobody said a thing.
I think it is pretty much an unenforced law, at least in these parts.
"Classic" is a generic term anymore...it is just another term for a nice old car, and many use it for cars that are less than nice. I think the strict AACA etc definition was abandoned ages ago.
Onto the seller's question...there's A LOT to choose from in the 10K-ish range. With old sports cars and the like, they tend to come from rusty areas - so I think structural integrity is important. 40+ year old cars often don't like being parked outside too, especially if they are British or Italian - so covered parking would be important.
#4 of 15 Re: Classic car as a daily driver? [bbassak]
Jun 10, 2010 (9:52 am)
Just recognize older cars have very limited safety equipment.
#5 of 15 Re: Classic car as a daily driver? [bbassak]
by Mr_Shiftright HOST
Jun 10, 2010 (10:48 am)
If you aren't a real tinkerer, you'd probably be happier with the Datsun 240Z (I wouldn't recommend a 260) but you may not find a truly nice one for $10K---although you might with some determined looking.
MGBs are very reliable but they require your attention---in fact, most cars we now call "classic" need a lot more of the owner's dutiful checking, snooping, tightening and coaxing than modern cars--the latter pretty much being turn the key and forget 'em. You have ignition points that need adjusting, spark plugs that foul, carburetors that flood, chokes that stick---things that are not even on the radar with a modern car.
For everyday use, you could consider a Datsun 240Z, a Volvo 544 or 122, a 60s-era Mustang (yes you can find plain ol' Mustang coupes for $10K), a VW bug, just about any General Motors sedan from the 60s or early early 70s, a Dodge Dart (albeit rather boring), a Datsun 510 (fun but hard to find anymore) --so there's a wide choice for daily drivers.
Italian cars? No. Well---MAYBE if you pick an 80s Alfa Spider with fuel injection and electronic ignition. And even then, line up the Alfa specialist before you buy. I drove these 80s Alfas as daily drivers for years, even cross-country.
Mercedes fintails are very sturdy cars but pricey to fix--so be sure you get a good one from the get-go. NO fixer-uppers!
Lots to chose from out there, but the safest bets are 60s Japanese, America and Swedish.
#6 of 15 Re: Classic car as a daily driver? [Mr_Shiftright]
Jun 10, 2010 (12:18 pm)
As a former 240Z owner, I can tell you that they are very enjoyable cars to own and drive, and pretty decent on a gallon of gas. As was mentioned earlier though, the older cars really do appreciate a covered parking spot and are a bit short on modern safety features.
Shifty, what about a 280Z? A bit more modern, a bit cheaper to purchase, and probably just as reliable (just not as much fun as the 240Z) or an early 90's 300Z. My roommate had a 300Z and that car's fun per dollar ratio was very high...
#7 of 15 Re: Classic car as a daily driver? [garv214]
by Mr_Shiftright HOST
Jun 10, 2010 (12:21 pm)
I'm not a big fan of the 280Z--I find them heavy, awkward-looking and not all that much fun to drive. The later 300ZXs, the last generation, not the earlier one, is a nice-looking car but it's complex, so one has to be careful before purchasing one.
The 240Z is very pure, clean and every inch a "2+2 sports coupe" in the old tradition---straight-6, multiple carbs, not loaded with gee-gaws and fully capable on modern roads.
#8 of 15 Re: Classic car as a daily driver? [Mr_Shiftright]
Jun 10, 2010 (12:25 pm)
Great advice so far, thanks guys. Shiftright, I'm right with you, I'd love a nice clean 240z, but the only reasonable ones I can find are in California and I'm on the East Coast.
#9 of 15 Re: Classic car as a daily driver? [bbassak]
by Mr_Shiftright HOST
Jun 10, 2010 (1:17 pm)
you can buy on the west coast, if you hire an inspector and/or buy from a reputable consignor. If you see something in an ad, post it here and we'll have a look at it (the ad I mean).
#10 of 15 Re: Classic car as a daily driver? [bbassak]
Jun 11, 2010 (6:24 am)
If you're in the Northeast, I'd warn you about rust issues. The 240z's native to New England have long been reduced to rust particles. A nice one taken to New England from the west coast will start rusting soon. Further south, say Baltimore & south, rust is less an issue unless you live where salt water floods roads.
It really helps to store the older car in a garage and work on it yourself.